A senior manager at RSPB Arne in Purbeck says a wildfire on a huge scale was narrowly averted thanks to a boat crew in Poole Harbour who spotted smoke and the quick response of the fire service.
Just after 6.30 pm on Wednesday 21st July 2021 the fire crews from Swanage and Wareham were called to the scene, only to discover that a discarded disposable barbecue had set light to the tinder dry grass around it.
This had caused a fire several metres long tracking into vegetation on the edge of one of Arne’s most important and diverse areas of heath.
The disposable barbecue had burnt the grass
“Decades of conservation… almost went up in smoke”
RSPB Arne senior site manager Peter Robertson said:
“I can’t understand the selfish behaviour of these individuals. Decades of conservation efforts by thousands of people (mainly volunteers) on our precious nature reserve almost went up in smoke for the sake of a charred burger. Please don’t light fires or barbecues on our nature reserve.
“The RSPB Arne Team would like to say a huge thank you to the boat user in Poole Harbour who alerted the fire service upon seeing smoke and to the fire service for responding so quickly and averting disaster.
“Finally, thank you to our volunteer wardens – Adam and Gwyneth – for directing the fire crew. Well done all.”
The heathland is at its driest this time of year, but even after rain and well into the autumn there is a significant fire risk. It’s home to thousands of rare reptiles, invertebrates, birds and mammals that would perish in any fire.
The disposable barbecue that was extinguished by the fire crew
“Please have a word!”
Wareham Fire Station said:
“We cannot stress this enough, do not have barbecues in protected Site of Special Scientific Interest areas like Arne. If you know who might be doing this, please have a word!
“Last year, the Wareham Forest fire cost over £500,000 of public money. Don’t add another £500,000 to your bill this year.”
The surrounding grass was burnt as the fire started to spread
Amber wildfire alert issued for Dorset
In 2020 according to Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue, more than 200 fires were caused by barbecues in Dorset and Wiltshire.
The exceptionally hot weather last week led to an Amber wildfire alert being issued for Dorset, meaning that, should a wildfire start, it could spread quickly and easily due to the dry conditions.
Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue group manager Darren Langdown said:
“Dealing with wildfires is incredibly resource intensive, and some can take days – and even weeks – to bring under control.
“Alongside the devastating impact on the countryside, such fires are also very costly, and yet they can be prevented if people heed the warnings and take care. We can all play a part in keeping Dorset and Wiltshire safe from fire.”